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Despite only being one album into their career, Anaal Nathrakh were fast on their way to becoming the rulers of chaotic extreme metal. Their debut offering, The Codex Necro, featured such a unique and impressive brand of black metal that it would be hard to top what they created with it. However, in between that excellent first album and their sound-shifting second album, the band decided to release an EP in the form of When Fire Rains Down From the Sky, Mankind Will Reap as it Has Sown. This record just about perfectly fits the term "transitional mini-album" that Dani Filth once used to describe his own band Cradle of Filth's Bitter Suites to Succubi, as this EP bridges the stylistic gap between the torturous black metal of The Codex Necro and the sign of future offerings Domine Non Es Dignus, while still maintaining its own identity within the band's discography.
Right off the bat the EP smacks you on the head with the blasting madness that is "Cataclysmic Nihilism", and this energy does not let up for one solitary second throughout the near 27 minutes that the disc plays for, remaining present during even slightly more subdued tracks such as "Atavism". One will very quickly notice that while the EP does remain musically similar to The Codex Necro, it is quite a bit faster than the majority of that record. Whereas that album's overall tone one could equate to being locked in a dirt floored cellar deep in the pits of Hell, the sound of When Fire Rains... is more akin to finally breaking the shackles from the wall and stepping outside the door of the dungeon to first witness that fabled land south of heaven in all its maniacal glory, as the band were starting to broaden their hatred of humankind to the broader spectrum of everybody rather than focusing on just the individual. The music is still primarily black metal, but the genre mixing that was merely hinted at on The Codex Necro and fully realized on later releases is definitely more at work here. The EP has a bit of an industrial feel to it, reminding me of Samael's Above despite being six years that album's senior. I would not be surprised if Vorph and Xy took some inspiration for that album from this one, especially considering they were intentionally trying to make the most extreme record they possibly could with it. The industrial feel is enhanced by the drums, which are more obviously programmed here than they were on The Codex Necro. The instrument's computerized nature gives for a cold, machine-like aspect of the music, and while samples aren't used as much here as they were on the last record, they do appear infrequently in all their tortured howling wonderfulness.
Returning to the roles they took on the last album are Mick "Irrumator" Kenney and Dave "V.I.T.R.I.O.L." Hunt. Both are just as good in their respective musical creation duties on this effort as they were on the previous release, with Irrumator performing and programming with flawless accuracy and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. turning in another terrifying vocal performance. They are not alone this time, though, as they are joined by black metal guitarist supreme Set Teitan on "How the Angels Fly In" & "Genesis of the Antichrist" and Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar on "Atavism". Both turn in great performances, with Attila's howling and moaning on "Atavism" being a particular highlight of the EP. Irrumator's production style for When Fire Rains... has changed from the dirty cacophony of The Codex Necro, with this outing being cleaner and a bit more polished, which does quite fit the general industrial tone of the record. It's still loud and maddening, though, with a wall of sound that is ear piercing but not too loud as to be brickwalled a la many other modern releases (thanks loudness war, you annoying reminder that metal album production 20 years ago was so much better). Some may prefer the last record's filthier sound, and others this one's polish, although I think both work excellently for the individual styles of each release.
Overall, When Fire Rains... is a great transition piece between The Codex Necro and Domine Non Es Dignus, evolving from the primitive yet insane black metal of the debut, maintaining a personality of its own, and setting up the sophomore release with the gusto of any other era-bridging EP. While I do honestly wish it was a bit longer as I usually do with most good EPs (hi, Vempire), for the 27 minutes of what we have been given with When Fire Rains... it is a fairly awesome listen and deserves just as much recognition for its songs and style as the main Anaal Nathrakh records do. Anaal Nathrakh's future shone with the intensity of a supernova, and just like with their debut record, this EP proved that they were quickly becoming the masters of metal mania.
Ahhh the beast has returned! And a grand return it is. Another bone crunching, neck splitting, hate filled release from Anaal Nathrakh. It must have been intimidating to try and return to the studio after releasing such an explosive debut such as The Codex Necro and the fact that they were being praised by black metal fans worldwide for their innovative new sound. However Nathrakh did it with the EP When Fire Rains Down From The Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown. With that being said it is very respectable of the band that even though they stayed completely true to their defined sound they still left room for improvement and evolution. This album seems to be more structured than the wall of blasting chaotic death noises that made up The Codex Necro.
The Album opens exactly how it should, with an explosion of all instruments carrying on for a series high deathly shrieks from V.I.T.R.I.O.L. Yes, the opener, Cataclysmic Nihilism, is definitely one of the strongest of these six tracks. The next standout would have to be Never Fucking Again. This monstrosity features the most aggressive and ear splitting vocals that are present on this album. The following track, Atavism, features all vocals by the legendary Atilla Csihar who is no disapointment here. The final track to this EP of mass destruction is also the title track. This is yet another massive highlight as it is heavy and aggressive to begin with but then what?! The chorus has clean vocals?! This is a new aspect to Nathrakh but not a bad one at all. Clean vocals are also present on their two later full length CDs.
All in all this is one of the strongest Eps I have come across. It picks up where the debut left off but continues to evolve at the same time. If you are new to this band and are looking for some ferocious and devastating black metal that will stay in your CD player for weeks, look no further. If you are already familiar with Nathrakh then add this one to your collection now!
So what do you do when you have already released one of the most extreme and innovative Black Metal albums of all time and are being hailed as the future sound of the genre? Evidently the only logical progression for Anaal Nathrakh, after the release of their stunning debut “The Codex Necro”, seemed to be to push the boundary that little bit further and continue to tread the path of spearheading the new wave of the genre. And so, they returned with this six track EP of total necrotic goodness.
Boasting guest appearances from both Attila Csihar and Seth Teitan 131 of Italian Black Metal band Aborym on vocals and lead guitars respectively, “When Fire Rains Down From The Sky, Mankind Will Reap As It Has Sown” certainly maintains the raw and bleak atmosphere created by the debut album but is able to build on it somewhat with a cleaner production, more defined song structures and added experimentation throughout. Again choosing to utilise a drum machine rather than live drums, Irrumator makes use of a mixture of drum patterns, some actually sounding particularly disjointed within the context of the genre. For example, in opener “Cataclysmic Nihilism” it initially seems as though every instrument is playing something different, yet the chaotic nature of the track quickly becomes apparent and such an incoherent rhythm becomes entirely fitting. The guitar sound is once again absolutely crushing but still manages to sound unlike that of the previous album, again illustrating the band’s aspiration to progress and develop as serious leaders rather than follow a lacklustre course of repetition.
Furthermore, V.I.T.R.I.O.L. employs more variety to his already renowned vocal abilities, with plenty of guttural screaming combined this time with some truly ear shattering high pitched shrieks, which again help to add to the flow of new and unique ideas that surge through this EP. Rather surprisingly, the track that Attila performs on, “Atavism”, is probably the weakest of all the six tracks present. The vocal performance is in fact nothing short of outstanding but the song simply does not do justice to his vocal talents, with the unfortunate tendency of sounding perhaps a little prolonged and imitative. However, tracks such as “How The Angels Fly In (We Can Never Be Forgiven)” and “Genesis Of The Antichrist” show a band that are simply going from strength to strength and remain unafraid to experiment beyond the restricted norm. With only their second release, Anaal Nathrakh have proven that they are near reaching distance of the Black Metal throne and should rightly have left their more uninspired contemporaries at a loss.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk